Prior to March 16, 2003, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was considered the greatest heavyweight fighter in MMA. At the time, Nogueira was the Pride heavyweight champion and riding a 13-fight win streak that extended back to start of the new millennium.
That would all come to a screeching halt when the Brazilian came up against stoic Russian Fedor Emelianenko.
The two fought in a historic trilogy that saw the dawning of new era in heavyweight history, as well as the passing of the guard from submission fighting to a more well rounded approach to the sport. Fedor would remain champion until Pride's downfall in 2007.
Fast forward over a decade since their third and final encounter, Nogueira remains complimentary about his former rival and still consider him to be the greatest challenge of his entire career.
"For me, he's the most respectful fighter I ever fought," Nogueira told MMAJunkie Radio. "I faced him three times in three big fights, and I have memories of each fight and each camp. It was my biggest challenge. I hope he's going to do well."
Given the numerous reports regarding Fedor's potential signing with the UFC, Nogueira is excited to watch the return of the ‘Last Emperor.'
"I'm very excited to watch him. He wasn't given the best couple fights, but in his last fight he beat Pedro Rizzo. But I hope he has luck."